Will a court pay attention?

April 13, 2021

If I had harbored even an iota of doubt about Junior Chandler’s innocence, it would’ve been vaporized by the podcast episode below.

Most dramatically, the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic’s meticulously assembled “Impossibility Exhibit” demonstrates that Junior was nowhere near the scene of his imaginary crimes….

But is the court paying attention?


Today’s random selection from the Little Rascals Day Care archives….


Dr. Summit was anything but objective about McMartin

Feb. 8, 2019

Second of two parts

At the core of the recent McMartin expose “They Must Be Monsters: A Modern-Day Witch Hunt” is the authors’ meticulous tracing of how the fantasies of one paranoid schizophrenic mother, Judy Johnson, fostered the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.

But Johnson did not act alone. Toward the end of the book Matthew LeRoy and Deric Haddad recall interviewing psychiatrist Roland Summit in his office and confronting him with evidence that – contrary to his earlier denials — he had been deeply involved not only with supporting Johnson’s bizarre accusations but also with fostering them.

I asked Haddad what lay behind Summit’s deceit.

“I suspect he was trying to cover up that he had given false testimony under oath,” he said. “He’d testified that they ‘first met’ in February 1984 – but Judy’s own calendars revealed a relationship that went back a year earlier. He may have had an influence on her before she ever even dropped her son off at McMartin.

“So when he looked over her notes, that only we had possession of, he saw that we could prove he’d lied. He got really shaky….”

If he had concerns about his professional reputation, Summit surely had much to be shaky about, including his role in whipping up panic among parents and his insistence that McMartin Preschool sat above a network of abuse-enabling secret tunnels.



‘I walked into FREEDOM….’

Bob Kelly, left, and Mark Montgomery at Duke Univerisity School of Law on Feb. 18, 2019.

Sept. 22, 2020

A burst of sunshine in these grim times. A note arrived today from Little Rascals Day Care case exoneree Bob Kelly: “Today, 25 years ago, because of Mark Montgomery’s wonderfully written and argued brief, I walked into FREEDOM…. Thanks to him and people like you who have believed in us!”


‘So, Paula, do YOU think I should pardon them?’

150429McCroryApril 29, 2015

“Wednesday marks the 230th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

“The two men, both mentally disabled and struggling to pay their bills, need the pardon from McCrory to be eligible for financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated. McCrory received the petition September 11 of last year.

“McCrory has been busy of course, most recently taking an unannounced trip to Los Angeles where he appeared on a panel at conference (and hobnobbed) with Paula Abdul and other celebrities at an event called the Global Gourmet Games….

“Meanwhile Henry McCollum and Leon Brown are still waiting for justice from McCrory and still struggling to pay their water bill….”

– From “Day 230 of Gov. McCrory denying justice to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown” by Chris Fitzsimon at the Progressive Pulse (April 19)

It’s not just Junior Chandler and the Edenton Seven who suffer from the indifference of elected officials who hold the power to at last do right by them.

To withhold compensation from the hapless McCollum and Brown seems especially heartless. If McCrory has an explanation for his nearly eight months of foot-dragging, he’s not revealing it – unless maybe he spilled to his tablemates at the Global Gourmet Games….

Why the panic ‘needs to be remembered’

130422JenkinsApril 22, 2013

“Lecturing recently, I mentioned the American witch-hunts of the 1980s and 1990s. When the audience looked puzzled, I explained that I was referring to the Satanic Panic of those years, the wave of false charges concerning ritual child abuse and devil cults that made regular headlines in the decade after 1984. The explanation helped little.

“Even people who had lived through those years, who had been following the media closely, had precisely no recollection. Lost in memory it may be, but the Satanic Panic needs to be remembered, if only to prevent a renewed outbreak of this horrible farrago. And when better than in the 30th anniversary of the affair’s beginning?

“It all started in southern California, in Manhattan Beach, in the Fall of 1983….”

– From “Remember the Satanic Panic” (Jan. 9, 2013) by Philip Jenkins, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, on Real Clear Religion

I share Dr. Jenkins’ concern about public memory, of course.

Which are more worrisome – those who have no recollection at all of cases such as McMartin and Little Rascals, or those who have forgotten they all were hoaxes?

‘Juvenile renderings of grownups’ anxieties’

April 16, 2012

“At the beginning of each ritual-abuse case, the children had been eminently reliable, but what they communicated was that they had not been molested by satanists. Indeed, it was only after an investigation started, after intense and relentless insistence by adults, that youngsters produced criminal charges.

“By then, their utterances had nothing to do with their own feelings or experiences. Rather, what came from the mouths of babes were juvenile renderings of grownups’ anxieties.”

– From “Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a  Modern American
Witch Hunt” by Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker (1995)

That was Dennis T. Ray’s story, and he was sticking to it

130814RayAug. 14, 2013

“FARMVILLE – A juror in the trial of Robert F. Kelly Jr. testified Wednesday that it was an ‘amazing coincidence’ that information from a magazine article appeared in his notes about jury deliberations.

“Dennis T. Ray insisted during a hearing on Kelly’s bid for a new trial that he did not use information from a Redbook article about child molestation to evaluate Kelly’s guilt. Ray denied that he compared Kelly to characteristics of a molester listed in the article.

“But defense attorney David Rudolf vigorously attacked Ray’s credibility by referring to notes Ray made during the deliberations. Rudolf cited numerous phrases from the magazine article, such as ‘vast amount of child pornography’ and ‘sex fiend’ which were identical to phrases in Ray’s notes.

“Rudolf, his voice rising, asked Ray whether it was just coincidence that so many phrases from the magazine appeared word-for-word in his notes. Ray replied that ‘it must be’ because jurors did not have the article in the jury room. ‘The only explanation you have for this is that it is an amazing coincidence?’ Rudolf asked. ‘Yes, sir,’ Ray said.

“In another sharp exchange, Rudolf questioned Ray’s contention that he did not describe the article in an interview with a producer for (“Innocence Lost”). Ray said he told her (only) that there were books in the jury room. Rudolf: ‘You are under oath, sir.’ Ray: ‘I do not remember saying that to her. No, sir.’ Rudolf: ‘Did you say it or not? You are under oath.’ Ray: ‘I do not believe that I did.’

“Rudolf then played video tapes of the program that showed Ray describing the article. Ray said after viewing the video that he did not remember it.”

– From “Kelly lawyer attacks juror’s credibility” in the News & Observer (Jan. 20, 1994)

Dennis T. Ray seems to have been quite a loose cannon in the jury room. In addition to the “amazing coincidence” of the Redbook article, Ray also (according to other jurors cited in Bob Kelly’s appellate brief) “made visits to Edenton despite instructions by the trial court not to.

Mr. Ray also claimed to have talked with an inmate at Eastern Correctional Institution. According to Mr. Ray, the inmate, a convicted child molester, claimed to know Bob Kelly, and to have personal knowledge of Mr. Kelly’s guilt. The jurors said that Mr. Ray also displayed some sort of object that he claimed to be a ‘magic key’ referred to by several children.”

Unpersuaded that any of this mischief might have contaminated the jury’s decision-making, Judge Marsh McLelland rejected Bob Kelly’s motion for a new trial.

A mother to fear at your day-care door

June 6, 2012

“The Kellys decided to buy the day care center after a previous owner quit following a dispute with a mother (who) was upset that her son didn’t get cake at a party because he wouldn’t wear a bib, Mrs. Kelly said (in testimony at Bob Kelly’s trial).

– The Associated Press, Feb. 11, 1992

What a coincidence – Jane Mabry, the disgruntled mother who ran off the first day-care owner, is the very same disgruntled mother who shut down the Kellys!